War and the Process of State-making

As we discussed in class on Thursday, there is a close relationship between the war, the state, and state-making.  Thus, violence is at the root of the idea of the modern state, as Weber’s famous definition of the state aptly demonstrates.  Norbert Elias suggested that the state-formation process in Europe was “an elimination contest.”  In addition, Charles Tilly famously wrote* “war made the state and the state made war.”  In a much-read paper** on the topic, Tilly wrote:

What distinguished the violence produced by states from the violence delivered by anyone else? In the long run, enough to make the division between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” force credible. Eventually, the personnel of states purveyed violence on a larger scale, more effectively, more efficiently, with wider assent from their subject populations, and with readier collaboration from neighboring authorities than did the personnel of other organizations.  But it took a long time for that series of distinctions to become established. Early in the state-making process, many parties shared the right to use violence, the practice of using it routinely to accomplish their ends, or both at once. The continuum ran from bandits and pirates to kings via tax collectors, regional power holders, and professional soldiers.

The uncertain, elastic line between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” violence appeared in the upper reaches of power. Early in the state-making process, many parties shared the right to use violence, its actual employment, or both at once. The long love-hate affair between aspiring state makers and pirates or bandits illustrates the division. “Behind piracy on the seas acted cities and city-states,” writes Fernand Braudel of the sixteenth century. “Behind banditry, that terrestrial piracy, appeared the continual aid of lords.”‘ In times of war, indeed, the managers of full-fledged states often commissioned privateers, hired sometime bandits to raid their enemies, and encouraged their regular troops to take booty. In royal service, soldiers and sailors were often expected to provide for themselves by preying on the civilian population: commandeering, raping, looting, taking prizes. When demobilized, they commonly continued the same practices, but without the same royal protection; demobilized ships became pirate vessels, demobilized troops bandits.

It also worked the other way: A king’s best source of armed supporters was sometimes the world of outlaws. Robin Hood’s conversion to royal archer may be a myth, but the myth records a practice. The distinctions between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” users of violence came clear only very slowly, in the process during which the state’s armed forces became relatively unified and permanent.

The process of legitimation of state violence came, as Tilly argues above, slowly.  What, according to Weber, are the different types of legitimacy that attended to this process?

*Charles Tilly, “Reflections on the History of European State-Making,” in Charles Tilly, ed.,  The Formation of National States in Western Europe (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1975), p. 42.

**Tilly, Charles. “War Making and State Making as Organized Crime, ” in Evans, Rueschemeyer and Skocpol, ed., Brining the State Back in (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p.172-173.

***Elias, Norbert. The Civilizing Process  (Oxford: Blackwell), 1993.

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